Lent 2, Monday, Year A

Inspired by Numbers 21:4-9

“The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’  So Moses prayed for the people, and the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’”  Numbers 21:7-8 (NRSV)

Actions have consequences, and sometimes we regret our actions once the consequences become apparent.  We pray that God will spare us from the consequences of our own actions and allow us to continue on our way as though we’d never made the choices we did.

But sometimes God does not remove the consequences from our lives.  That does not mean, however, that he abandons us to them.  The Israelites prayed that God would remove the poisonous serpents from their midst.  God did not give them what they wanted; instead he provided a way for the lethal affect to be neutralized.  Though still plagued by poisonous serpents, all they had to do was look at the bronze serpent Moses had set on a pole and they would live.

That’s it: just look at the bronze serpent.  They did not have to participate in any complex ritual or perform some atoning sacrifice; they did not have to engage in particular behaviors that would demonstrate their proper repentance.  When they felt the sting of the real serpent, all they had to do was look at the bronze serpent and trust that God would save them.  And through his grace, though the serpents still surrounded them and the poison had already entered their bodies, they managed to live and not die.  Though still present, the consequences of their sin did not determine their fate.

We all sin many times and in many ways.  Yet we die in Christ and are born anew every day, and we need not be defined by our past sins.  We may be surrounded by the consequences of our sinful actions and behaviors, but those consequences need not determine our fate.  All we need to do is look to the one who took upon himself the consequences of our sin, and trust that he will save us.

Let us pray.  Omnipotent God, your grace is more powerful than any force in creation.  Grant us the sure knowledge of your mercy, that we may face the consequences of our actions with courage and humility.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.